Luis Diaz rescues ten man Liverpool as they draw with Palace

Luis Diaz scored an amazing solo goal, five minutes after the sending off of new team mate Darwin Nunez had reduced Liverpool to ten men and apparently consigned them to defeat
Luis Diaz rescues ten man Liverpool as they draw with Palace

STUNNER: Liverpool's Luis Diaz, right, celebrates after scoring his side's opening goal during the English Premier League match between Liverpool and Crystal Palace. Pic: AP Photo/Jon Super

Luis Diaz scored an amazing solo goal, five minutes after the sending off of new team mate Darwin Nunez had reduced Liverpool to ten men and apparently consigned them to defeat, as Jurgen Klopp’s challenging start to the new campaign continued at Anfield on Monday night.

For a sixth Premier League game in a row Liverpool conceded first, to a Wilfried Zaha goal that was so against the run of play that the Palace striker almost looked embarrassed in celebrating it.

And, with Liverpool battling a string of injuries, the sending off might have swung the game Palace’s way had the Anfield crowd, and an inspirational Diaz goal, not come to the rescue.

The 56th minute dismissal of Nunez demonstrated the dark side of the striker’s game, that goes with the talent that convinced Liverpool to break the club transfer record for him this summer.

After scuffling off the ball with Joachim Andersen, who was booked for his part, Nunez head butted the defender and was shown a straight red - which finally galvanised his mis-firing team.

And what a goal it was as Diaz picked up the ball on the wing and cut inside, skilfully moving past at least six white-shirted defenders before planting a superb 20-yard finish into the corner of the Palace goal.

It was a much-needed equaliser. Such are the dizzying standards that have been set by Liverpool, and their primary rivals Manchester City, in recent seasons that even a draw is now met with the same sort of response that used to greet a defeat.

That was certainly the reaction after Liverpool’s season opened with a draw at Fulham last week although the opening minutes at Anfield last night suggested that reports of their demise might have been a little premature.

Yet the first half came and went without a Liverpool goal as Patrick Vieira’s men packed their own area and scored with their first move in the opposition half, after 32 minutes.

And the prospect of losing a game - something that only happened twice in the whole of last season - was not something Klopp and his fans would have wanted to contemplate.

And the real heroes of that Palace first half performance were at the other end of the field where Vieira’s defence performed so ably in dealing with approach play that seemed to focus on the wings, and Trent Alexander-Arnold, in particular.

It was his incredibly precise cross after 22 minutes that landed at the feet of Mo Salah whose low shot flew inches wide of the net when most packed inside Anfield expected, and wanted, the net to bulge.

Salah was not alone in his profligacy. After 53 seconds, an Alexander-Arnold centre was punched clear by Vincente Guaita, with Nunez about to latch onto it, and James Milner sent a follow-up shot soaring over the net.

Another great cross from the England right-back found the lively Harvey Elliott, fresh with the new long-term contract he signed last week, and his effort was well blocked by the diligent Andersen.

The danger was not over and a cross to the far post again found Nunez who, this time, could only volley the ball high and wide of the goal.

It was a solid start from a team without seven potential first team starters, absences that left Nat Phillips making a rare start in the centre of Liverpool’s defence and, while there were no initial signs of that being problematic, it certainly began to look that way after Palace’s shock opening goal.

By that stage, Liverpool had unlocked 11 efforts on the Palace goal but on 32 minutes, Palace scored by the most rudimentary means imaginable, starting with Guaita finding Eberechi Eze with an accurate pass halfway inside the Palace half.

The winger instantly picked out the perfect through ball, dissecting the two Liverpool centre halves and sending Zaha racing clear on goal. The striker showed amazing composure before burying an unstoppable shot past Alisson and into the far corner.

Five minutes later, Zaha was presented with another half-chance, this time planting a weak shot directly at the Liverpool goalkeeper and, before the half-time whistle, Palace should have doubled their lead.

Cheick Doucoure was the architect with a fine pass that again sent Zaha sprinting into the box where Alisson had advanced to make an important blocking save, just inside his area.

Liverpool tried to respond, an Elliott header forcing the Palace defence into their first real error of the night as Guaita made a meal of a routine save and the ball was scrambled behind for a corner.

And in the third minute of first half injury-time, Nunez should have levelled as he found himself with only the keeper to beat from an Elliott through ball, mis-hitting a lob over Guaita but against the post.

The second half began with more of the same, Salah playing in Nunez who blocked his effort and survived an overly-optimistic handball appeal from the watching Kop.

But the red card changed the pattern of the game hugely, with Anfield roaring on their ten men and Liverpool always looking more likely to score the game’s third.

Still, they had to survive an incredible miss from Zaha on 77 minutes, when he volleyed against the post when unmarked at the far post from an Eze cross.

Liverpool (4-3-3): Alisson 7; Alexander-Arnold 8, Phillips 5 (Gomez 63, 6), van Dijk 6, Robertson 7 (Tsimikas 63, 6); Elliott 7 (Carvalho 79, 5), Fabinho 5, Milner 6 (Henderson 63, 6); Salah 7, Nunez 5, Diaz 9. 

Substitutes (not used): Keita, Adrian, Clark, Bajcetic, van den Berg.

Crystal Palace (5-4-1): Guiata 7; Clyne 7, Ward 7, Andersen 8, Guehi 7, Mitchell 5 (Richards 79, 5); Ayew 5 (Edouard 63, 6), Doucoure 7 (Hughes 79, 5), Schlupp 6 (Olise 87), Eze 9 (Milivojevic 79, 5); Zaha 8. 

Substitutes (not used): Mateta, Johnstone, Ebiowei, Plange.

Referee: P Tierney 8

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